March 26th, 2011
Venison is the meat from all types of deer irrespective of whether they are farmed or hunted. In this country, deer are not intensively farmed – they live outside with very good grazing (I can’t speak for other countries, but I haven’t come across anything that suggests deer are intensively farmed anywhere). In general deer meat is very lean and it’s low in calories and cholesterol – this is what our ancestors ate as hunter gatherers and we should eat more of it!
The butcher had some very nice looking diced venison on Friday, so I thought I’d make venison pie.
Venison Pie recipe (serves 4 – 6 people, depending on greed):
2 lbs diced venison
4 slices of streaky bacon (chopped)
1 pint of home made goose stock (you could substitute chicken stock)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
4 heaped dessert spoons of plain flour
1 level teaspoon of English mustard powder
2 teaspoons of ground herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
3 bay leaves
a pinch of crushed chilli
1 glass of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
2 dessert spoons of tomato purée
1 squeeze of anchovy paste
a splash of soy sauce
a little olive oil
2 teaspoons of goose fat
a knob of butter
1 lb home made pastry
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Make the pastry as per my recipe here (the quantity in the recipe is correct for this pie). Once made, flour and wrap the pastry in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least an hour before using. Personally I think that home made pastry is so much nicer than the shop bought stuff, that I’d use it every time.
Make sure that all the venison is chopped to a similar size and throw away any tough pieces. Mine was exceptionally good quality and inexpensive. Season (mix) 4 heaped desert spoons of plain flour with the mustard powder, salt and pepper. Coat the venison in the flour – you may find it easiest to do this by putting the flour in a large plastic bag and then shaking the meat around in it. Heat up the goose fat and a little olive oil in a large metal casserole until the fat/oil mixture starts to smoke. Brown the meat and remove it from the casserole.
Using the same casserole and fat/oil (so as to retain all the meat flavour) sprinkle in the chilli and the onions (add more olive oil if necessary). When the onions become translucent add the bacon and when it takes some colour, the carrots, celery and garlic. Stir the vegetables to get them coated with oil before returning the venison to the pot. Pour on the stock, wine and vinegar and squirt in the purée and anchovy paste. Don’t forget the bay leaves and the ground herbs. Stir everything well. Use common sense with the liquids, you want to cover the meat and vegetables in order to make a pie filling, you are not looking to make soup (you can always add a bit more stock/wine later, if necessary). Put the lid on the casserole and braise in a pre heated oven at 120º C for 2 hours – this will make sure that the meat is nice and tender and all the flavours mingle. Please note that I used goose stock that I made after Christmas dinner, with goose bones – chicken stock made with chicken bones would also be good and at a pinch you could use stock cubes dissolved in boiling water.
After an hour I tasted the pie filling and added a little more tomato purée, anchovy paste and red wine vinegar. When the pie filling had had 2 hours I felt it still needed a little extra something to achieve a perfect savoury taste (umami), so I added a little splash of soy sauce, which was just right. I might also have tried Balsamic vinegar. As a word of caution, if you are not sure, take out a little bit of the pie filling (or whatever you are cooking) and add your extra flavouring to that before following a wild taste hunch – you don’t want to ruin the flavour of the whole dish.
After 2 hours and umami nirvana has been achieved, allow the pie filling to cool down, before adding it to a buttered or oiled (to stop any sticking) pie dish. Roll out the pastry until you have it slightly larger than the top of the pie dish. Trim off any excess pastry and roll it over the top of the filling – tuck the sides in and crimp the edges of the pastry to the dish with your fingers, to make it stick (see my picture above). I beat an egg and brushed it over the top of the pastry to help it brown nicely in the oven (milk is also popular for this). Decoration on top of the pie is optional – don’t forget to make a few holes (5 or 6) in the pastry with a fork to allow hot air to escape while cooking. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 200º C for between 30 to 40 minutes or until the top looks golden brown. Serve with mashed potato.